The Modern Period

The Modern Period

Modern Lyric Poetry & Society: An Aesthetic Form's International Double-Dialogues (Within Art; With History, Economics, Politics...)
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Robert Kaufman
283 Dwinelle

How is that a poetic form, genre, or modality--lyric poetry, which, in its innumerable modern versions, is often said to have started somewhere within mid-late 18th century Romanticism, and which continues exerting influence into and across 20th-21st century successive artistic movements/periods known as modernism, avant-gardism, and postmodernism, as well as today's "post-postmodernist" situations--has kept generating such interest, attention, passion, controversy?

A key element in debates about lyric (debates that have taken place not only in literary and aesthetic criticism, but also within countless poems themselves) concerns what modern lyric is and does.   Is lyric poetry the most stubbornly individualist, self-involved, inward-focused, apolitical, escapist, "bourgeois-formalist," status-quo-preserving sort of art imaginable? Or is it, precisely in its commitments--to aesthetic form and experience, to critical reflection and judgment, to states of feeling seemingly fused with rigorous intellectual activity (through a poem's effort of stretching language towards a kind of musicality that appears to be extending the reach of thought itself)--a special way to catalyze engagement with something much larger than the individual poem or reader, namely, a more collective engagement with sociopolitical and historical reality? Both? Neither?

This course will consider a great number of lyric or lyric-related poems; we'll focus on poetry from the 20th and 21st centuries, but we'll also look at some Romantic and later 19th-century poetry  (and a few poems from even earlier periods) to get a sense of experiments, conversations, and contestations occurring across history.  While the poets we'll read will present a wide range of views and approaches--aesthetically, philosophically, politically--they'll generally concur in their sense that the question of what lyric is and does stands in important relation to our sense of modern art, culture, society, and politics.

Our absurdly enormous, cruelly fast-paced reading list will try to  include--but still not be limited only to--poems by:  Sor Juana, Wheatley, Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Keats, Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Hölderlin, B. von Armin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé, Dario, Martí, Machado, Dickinson, Whitman, Rilke, H.D., Pound, Eliot, Williams, Hughes, Guillén, Brecht, Vallejo, Lorca, Neruda, Mistral, Borges, Niedecker, Stevens, Oppen, Moore, Paz, Hayden, Éluard, Aragon, Césaire, Celan, Pasolini, Hansberry, Levertov, Duncan, Creeley, Ginsberg, B. Kaufman, Joans, Rich, Castellanos,Bishop,  Darwish, Daive, Jones/Baraka, Adonis, Albiach, Lorde, Ashbery, O'Hara, Brathwaite, Pizarnik, Avidan, Guest, Monchoachi, Palmer, Harjo, Bellesi, Gelman, Bachmann, H. and A. de Campos, Palmer, Zurita, Adnan, Mullen, Arteaga, Mackey, Huenún, Roberson, Arteaga, Yau, Tejada, Kim, Marriott, Royet-Journoud, A. S. Ali, E. Pérez, Sigo, ....

Criticism and philosophy: In addition to reading lots of criticism written by the poets whose poems we'll be reading, we'll also read  works (or excerpts from works) by J.S. Mill, Du Bois, Dewey, Benjamin, Adorno, Mariátegui, Breton, Arendt, C. Greenberg, Kristeva, K. Taylor, M. Kronfeld, Okiji....

NOTE: Poems NOT originally written in English will be read and studied in English translations;  but we'll also almost always at least briefly look at and discuss some aspects of the poems in their original languages.  Students taking this course do NOT need to read in or speak any languages other than English: our shared language for the course, and for reading, discussing, and writing about poetry, will be English.  But many of our poems not originally written in English will be--after having being read, heard, engaged, and discussed in the English translations provided--then also read aloud and looked at in their original languages (including Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Hebrew).  Students will be asked to consider how hearing and seeing something of the ways that the poems work in their original languages may affect how they experience the poems when returning to the English translations.